Teenage mutant ninja people
Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, Fukushima; Why are these names associated with fear and foreboding? Because we know the potential dangers, albeit often overstated, of radioactive materials leaking from damaged nuclear power plants. We have read about the disastrous effects they can have on people, crops and stock.
But, isn’t there an upside to this? Surely the believers in evolution should be jumping with glee, hoping for some new mutation that will propel the human race to a new level of evolutionary progress? After all, we know about Spiderman, the Hulk, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the X-men, all of whom fictionally benefited hugely from contact with radioactive materials. Comic strips, movies and other popular publications have entrenched this positive idea of ‘mutants’ being superior to the ‘normal’ in the public mind. The reality, however, is vastly different.
Darwin’s theory of evolution relies on the selection of the ‘fittest’ from a continually varying population; but at the time he was writing, the Austrian monk and scientist, Gregor Mendel, was demonstrating that there are definite limits to the variation possible. Darwin provided no mechanism for broadening these limits, but modern ‘Neo-Darwinism’ suggests that extra variation can come through ‘mutations’. These are alterations to the normal genetic material that often produce alterations in the offspring, and these alterations can be selected for. They can and do occur naturally, as copying mistakes during cell replication, or under the influence of chemicals or radiation. They are the hope of evolutionists.
However, if these mutations are so desirable, and are responsible for the marvellous supposed success of accidental evolutionary invention and progress, why do we want to keep people from living near the Fukushima power plant amongst the leaked radioactive materials? Won’t there be lots of mutations? Can’t we expect some beneficial ones to appear and elevate the human race to a superior level?
Unfortunately not. The reality is that mutations caused by such influences as ionizing radiation are much more damaging than helpful. The DNA in a cell is like the instruction book for the cell’s workings, and any random changes will be like similar changes in an instruction book. Imagine a manual for the construction of something you know about. Now imagine making random changes to the letters and symbols in those instructions. Changes to “an” or “the” may not be significant, but a change from mm to m (millimetres to metres), or a 9 to a 2, or a change in the order of the pages, could be very damaging. Your construction would have significant faults (such as building the roof before the foundations), and might fail to work at all.
Radiation does this to genes—it scrambles the genetic instructions, and functionality is reduced, unless the built-in (created) repair mechanisms1 are able to cope. Scrambled instructions in the reproductive cells are passed on to offspring, and the genetic errors accumulate over the generations faster than they can be eliminated by natural selection.2
When the above fictional characters were being invented and popularized, scientists were actively working to produce mutated marvels. Many experiments with this kind of aim were conducted through the twentieth century.3 One research project involved the irradiation of millions of pine tree seeds. The researchers hoped that the mutations would produce super trees, growing faster, thicker and higher, with denser timber and fewer branches. Most of the irradiated seeds failed to germinate. Of those that grew, many died because of such problems as lack of chlorophyll, or proper vascular systems, while many that managed to live grew along the ground, or sprouted many trunks, or fuzzy leaves, or spongy trunks or showed other signs of disorganization. The only ones to survive any length of time were those that escaped significant mutational damage, and grew normally.4
Obviously, mutations were occurring in the DNA, but, just as obviously, the mutations were not creating the super-trees they were hoping for. Today, similar research continues, but usually with the expectation of a similarly damaged product, although the results may be useful to mankind.5 Examples of successful mutation breeding are dwarfed crop plants (short wheat plants don’t fall over in stormy weather), seedlessness in fruit and change of colour in flowers due to eliminating specific pigments. But, again, even when mutations do something useful, in each case it involves damaging existing genetic instructions, not gain of new ones. Furthermore, a recent paper showed that even the rare beneficial mutations tend to work against each other—the phenomenon called antagonistic epistasis.6
The same happens to any living thing, such as humans. If we receive a dose of radiation, we can expect at least some damage to the DNA in some of our cells. If it happens in only a couple of cells, we will hardly notice, so low doses (such as occasional X-rays) are OK. As the dose rises, the risk of damage also rises, so that one will begin to feel ill from ‘radiation poisoning’ as more cells get damaged. Higher doses may cause deformed offspring (if the damage occurs in a reproductive cell), or the shut-down of a specific organ, or cancer (which is, after all, a cell multiplying wrongly because its control genes have been damaged). Yet higher doses will cause irreparable damage in a large number of cells, leading to death7 (as the workers who volunteered to repair the Fukushima plant accepted).
Commercial irradiation of foodstuffs is deliberately used to kill all undesirable organisms within the packaging, and it does a thorough job by completely disrupting cell processes.
It is fear of such damage that caused the Japanese government to provide an exclusion zone around Fukushima, and has led to countries importing Japanese goods checking for any residual radiation. No informed person believes that anyone will benefit from random changes (mutations) in their genes. No one wants to be irradiated in the hope of beneficial mutations. No one wants to be an evolutionary experiment.
Our increasing knowledge of the content and activity of the genome assures us that the DNA of any creature is designed to produce exactly that creature, and any random change will damage the required set of instructions. It is even more obvious that the types of changes necessary for a Spiderman to exist are way beyond the bounds of possibility. Why then do some people believe that such changes have occurred in the past to make a bird out of a dinosaur, or a mammal out of a lizard, or a frog out of a fish? It is simply not possible. Mutations damage DNA. They don’t invent new, more complex traits.
While geneticists may make ‘improvements’ by deliberately transferring genes from one creature to another, this is using already-created information from the biosphere. Random changes due to radiation are not going to produce a ‘super’ creature, and especially not a new kind of creature. The genetic information God originally gave each kind of creature represented the full measure of genetic information for that organism, and chance mutations will never add coordinated instructions for the kinds of ‘improvements’ required to make microbes-to-mankind evolution possible
References and notes
- See for example New DNA repair enzyme discovered. Return to text.
- See Sanford, J., Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome, FMS, 2008. Return to text.
- For example: La Croix, Donald J, Radiosensitivity of Jack Pine Seed to Cobalt-60, Forest Science 10(3):293–295, 1 September 1964 .Return to text.
- A 1961 paper reported: “Average number of cones per bearing tree was 17 for the control, 10 for the irradiated. Thus survivals, heights and flowering have been less for the irradiated material than for the controls.” http://www.xn–rheinischesmuseumfrphilogie-2bd.com/fileadmin/content/dokument/archiv/silvaegenetica/10_1961/10-5-125.pdf p.126. Return to text.
- For example (crops other than pine trees): Mokobia, C. E. and Anomohanran, O., The effect of gamma irradiation on the germination and growth of certain Nigerian agricultural crops, J. Radiol.Prot. 25(2):181–8, 2005. Return to text.
- Doyle, S., The diminishing returns of beneficial mutations, 7 July 2011. Return to text.
- www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000026.htm and similar sites. Return to text.
I've long thought that these tales of superheroes hearkens back to a deeper longing within all of us. That is to acknowledge the reality of angels and 'super' saints doing the works of God. Our hearts so long for the supernatural to supersede our natural world that the world has made up these beings as a replacement for the spiritual realm it refuses to acknowledge.
Maybe God had written in our hearts the ability to live in comfort with (or even look for inspiration to) another level of being up the power scale between us and Him and this is just to world's way of satisfying that hunger.
Satan does like to produce his counterfeits
Peace to you and your ministry,
it is appreciated ;)
Great article ! I too enjoy "fantasy" and sci-fi as entertainment. I would recommend C. S. Lewis' "Chronicles of Narnia" especially his "The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe" An excellent story with a great message.
Serious scientists now know that Darwin's 'conditions of life' make the availability of food (i.e., ecological variation) responsible for nutrient-dependent ecological adaptations in the morphological and behavioral phenotypes of species from microbes to man. They also know that the physiology of reproduction must be considered in the context of genetically predisposed nutrient-dependent ecological adaptations manifested in species diversity.
For example, Denis Noble published 'Neo-Darwinism, the Modern Synthesis and selfish genes: are they of use in physiology?' He wrote "If you learnt evolutionary biology and genetics a decade or more ago you need to be aware that those debates have moved on very considerably, as has the experimental and field work on which they are based." Two years later he published "Physiology is rocking the foundations of evolutionary biology."
If you look at articles that cite Denis Noble's works, like 'Genes without prominence: a reappraisal of the foundations of biology' you will quickly see why serious scientists have abandoned the pseudoscientific nonsense of evolutionary theory. Simply put, everything known about physics, chemistry, and molecular biology attests to the fact that mutation-driven evolution is not possible.
You need not be a Creationist to recognize scientific facts, or to understand why evolutionary theorists will not discuss them in the context of biologically-based cause and effect. Their theories are based on population genetics, not on what's known about the conserved molecular mechanisms of God's Creation, which are observed in the context of the fact that all organisms must eat to reproduce (Darwin's 'conditions of life').
Thank you for helping others to learn more about the facts of life that theorists ignore.
I love the range of topics CMI touches on! As 30 something guy I am inclined to enjoy the super-hero genre films and literature, although I do it quite selectively and with a great deal of pondering the significance of the stories' messages. The danger I see is in people lowering their guard to let in something entertaining and, in the aforementioned computer parlance, getting a virus. It gets implanted and, if left unchecked, can crash your whole system. This applies not only to the evolutionary worldview being none to subtly smuggled in literally under our noses but also to the acceptance of non-human entities with amazing powers (How many characters are aliens or trans-dimensional beings, if not outright "demons"?!).
On a literary note, fantasy is helpful in helping to express and work out the grand themes that affect our very human lives in a way that is novel to our everyday experience. That being said, the question then is not merely one of whether a certain genre is the appropriate vehicle for the message, but rather the content of the underlying message itself. Basically, it's not so much HOW you tell the story as WHAT it's about and WHY you're telling it.
J.R.R Tolkien wrote, "Fantasy remains a human right, for we are made. And not only are we made, but we are made in the image and likeness of a maker." The world is hungry for a great tale, one that has a powerful love story, a heroic rescue, and ends "happily-ever-after." So let's focus on knowing the Truth of God's Word and making it known, whether through prose or poetry, fiction, fact, or full-blown fantasy. Let's let them know that the Author of life knew all the days set before them before yet there were any of them and that He longs to give them a happy never-ending!
Originally, Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider; but in the movie versions he is bitten by a genetically altered spider.Seems the comic movies may be coming around.(At least in the Raimi version)
Thanks, I found this a very delightful read. Having grown up in the generation that watches X-men and play pokemon, I often hear friends talking about how humanity will one day evolve to a higher plane of existence.
These friends also talk about the reality of DNA damage, cancers and tumours. Thats why they don't expose themselves to too much sunlight.
But it never occurs to them to piece both together to realize that damage to the DNA causes breakdown of currently functioning processes. Resulting in a "devolution" of sorts over generations instead of an upward evolution.
God really did mean it when he made life and DNA and said it was very good. But much has been corrupted since then
The reality is that natural selection works on already living organisms, but mutations run amok on the DNA sequence within the cells of living organisms unaided by natural selection.
A direct modern analogy is the production of a software application. The software application is like the phenotype. Natural selection is like the scope of the business environment that constrains the use of the software application. The genome is like the application terms of reference. Customization of the software application is like the Epigenome. The chemicals are like the hardware. The cells are the servers that orchestrate the software application. ATP synthase the energy currency of the cell is like the components that powers the hardware. The DNA in the cell is like the storage and logic gates. The genetic sequence in the DNA (codes - genes, non-genes) are the programming constructs and instructions. The proteins are the modules in the software application. The transcription, translation, signals, messages are like the programmed units. The repair mechanisms are like error trapping. The transportation of these signals, messages are like the network. Mutations are like errors in the code, hardware, business.
If mutations can create super heroes, then errors should create specified software applications!
The evidence shows that creation, design are a quantitative measure for functionality in life. But unguided chance mutations are a quantitative measure for disaster, disease and death.
The quantitative measures of “Genesis 1:26 ‘And God said, Let us make…’ ” and “Genesis 2:7 ‘And the Lord God formed…’” are self-evident.
But to produce life in functionality requires the “breath” that is only from God, Genesis 2:7 “… and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life…”
The popularity of mutation driven fantasy like Pokemon, X-men and the like has always seemed more like a pagan mythology than harmless entertainment. It's not just because I'm a sci-fi purist that I think that stories of mutant creatures that spontaneously evolved biologically based beam weapons, or capabilities like weather control, teleportation and time travel are actually harmful notions.
The miraculous nature of ATP-synthase is obscured by what regularly happens on the Pokemon world through the miraculous power of Evolution. Certainly, any of these mutant abilities would be irreducibly complex and tend to support the belief in the existence of a supernatural agency other than God.
Many Thanks - Having been fascinated by XMen, Fantastic four, Hulk etc (still enjoy a good sci-fi) - the reality of genetic mutation and it's mostly harmful effects on the DNA, is a great explanation against the fantasy of Evolution. This and the effects and limits of Artificial Selection in dogs such as our pet Shih tzu opens the door very naturally to discuss with my young daughter (who also enjoys X men etc) - the impossibility of Natural Selection to produce different kinds of organisms by Selection (Natural or Artificial). She can see and understand the logic very well.